In this special issue Cascade Business News takes a look at the few women who are exclusively selling, developing and managing commercial real estate in Central Oregon. Their unique insights are having a significant impact on the commercial real estate industry and how current challenges are beginning to emerge within their industry.
You can rest assured that this was not a men vs. women article and Andie Edmonds, broker, Fratzke Commercial Real Estate said right up front, “I’m not a big fan of playing the “chick” card. I think for every challenge we face as a woman in a male-dominated industry we also have an advantage and neither is insurmountable nor career making. As an example, I think gaining intellectual credibility takes longer for a woman because some clients (and a few brokers) struggle with the idea that a woman is capable of making the necessary financial analysis to put together a lease or sell a property. But it only takes a couple well put together deals and your reputation goes from being “the new chick broker” to being “a broker who can get a deal put together.”
Jean Wood of MHi, Real Estate Development & Asset Management noted: “For me, the appeal of development is how it encompasses a certain degree of risk, how it requires solving design and market challenges, juggling lots of moving parts, and by its very nature brings about change. Here in Central Oregon that change has been creativity at its purest: making something out of nothing…turning sagebrush and juniper into a thriving business park.”
Perhaps a more telling part of this article is their predictions for the commercial real estate market….read on.
Women in Commercial Real Estate in Central Oregon
Cascade Business News posed these questions to all women commercial realtors we could identify in the region. Following are the women who chose to participate.
1. What made you decide to exclusively work in commercial real estate (if the majority of your sales are not commercial then please let me know and I\\\’ll take you off the list)?
2. How is commercial different than residential?
3. What challenges or advantages, if there are any, do you have working in this type of commercial RE environment….i.e. do you approach deals differently than men?
4. Why are there less women in this field?
5. Give any predictions you have for the local real estate commercial market?
6. Feel free to tell me anything else you deem appropriate.
PAULA VAN VLECK
COLM COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE SERVICES
1. I decided to work exclusively in commercial real estate at the beginning of my real estate career because I had small children at the time, and this type of real estate operates more during the regular work week rather than on the weekends. Commercial real estate allows me to be more assertive and creative in finding the right tenants or buyers.
2. Commercial is different than residential because many residential brokers put a sign up in a yard to sell the property, put the property on MLS, and wait for the right buyer to come forward. In commercial I figure out what tenants would be good for a property, and I go after them to see if they will relocate to this site. I can be more assertive. I also enjoy finding tenants in other cities to bring into Bend. Commercial real estate is also more about the numbers, the income of the property as opposed to just the emotion. We learn in commercial how to creatively make the deals work so that we create win/win for all parties. Closings come a lot slower in commercial than in residential.
3. I have learned from my work in the personal growth arena for which I volunteer and in my mediation work, how to treat clients, how to listen to their needs, how to “hear” what they are really saying underneath the words, how to encourage and inspire them. I work on creativity in solving their problems and challenges. Real estate has been my vehicle for working with many different types of people….and people are my passion.
4. There seem to be fewer women than men because traditionally women have been in the residential market. I think the men have enjoyed keeping this industry more to themselves. It has taken a lot of persistence and gut level determination to stay in this industry; to run hard and fast enough to keep from being trampled; and to have the inner confidence to keep working it even though the men have called me “pit bull” and bitch from time to time. I have had to keep keeping on independent of the comments of others and/or how scary it can get in between commission fundings.
5.I think that the local market is still fairly active, at least, for those of us with long term clients. I believe that it’s getting to be “opportunity time” for people with money. I have not seen the prices as low in the 15 years I’ve been in this market. I think our community needs to look at how much abundance is all around us….not just in money, but in ideas, in creativity, in energy, in nature, in intuition, in giving, in integrity….all of which can translate into opportunities and money as we change our thinking. We all, collectively, can turn our community’s economy around for the better.
6. I am more than grateful for the opportunities that have come my way in this arena in Bend. I am grateful for the mentors I have had along the way, for the loyal clients, for my family and friends, for the opportunities to bless others and to be blessed by others.
COLM COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE SERVICES
1. I accidentally stumbled into commercial real estate in 1984 when Steve Scott, broker/owner of Steve Scott & Company Realtors, asked if I would be interested in changing my course of business from selling residential properties to learning about commercial real estate. I was happy because I had been in the financial services industry in the San Francisco Bay Area, dealing with commercial properties. I just didn’t know how to break into the commercial world circa 1978 in Bend. The quick answer is I was in the right place at the right time.
2. Commercial real estate is an entirely different proposition. Although residential and commercial both deal with real property, I believe commercial transactions are much more complex. You deal with more sophisticated investors who are interested in a rate of return on their investments, and it requires a greater degree of education and experience.
3. This environment is more advantageous for both men and women in commercial real estate, because there is less competition as compared to a residential environment, and therefore, it can be financially rewarding. The biggest challenge is working with business tenants in our managed property portfolio to reassure the sustainability and growth of their businesses in these economically difficult times. I do approach deals differently with men than women: with women I don’t have the “big ego” phenomena going on.
4. The level of confidence in women is diminished because commercial real estate is a male driven and dominated field. Women feel threatened to compete unless they have experience or have been exposed to the financial world. Most women friends who are in the residential field always tell me they do not want to compete in the commercial world. I understand what they mean. It took a long time and lots of bruises along the way to even become accomplished in this field.
I have an article out of the Portland Oregonian dated February 26, 1928, that I found in the basement of the O’Kane Building in 1985. The article announced that women were finally given the right to use the term “realtor” from the National Association of Realtors. It seems so unfair that it took so long and much pressure from women realtors to achieve this designation.
5. I believe it will continue to be difficult through 2010; then a slow recovery will take place. Fortunately, we live in an area that is so desirable that stabilization will eventually occur. I think uncontrolled growth is economically unhealthy.
ANDIE EDMONDS, BROKER
FRATZKE COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE
1. My professional background is in securities so the transition from financial analysis of stocks to the financial analysis of real estate investments was a natural one. And while the purchase of a residence is an investment, the motivation for buying a home is different from the motivation of investing in property to create cash flow. I like the idea of helping investors compare different opportunities and using my analytical skills to evaluate and communicate the potential return of a particular building or piece of land.
2. From the standpoint of “selling,” developing a client base for commercial or residential real estate is similar…network, exceed client expectations, and develop a reputation of excellence and integrity. A strong reputation results in your name being on the top of a potential clients mind when they need your service. From the standpoint of the execution of transaction of a commercial vs. residential property, the paths diverge. As I alluded to above, the motivation behind buying a home centers around things like the style of the home, the neighborhood, the finish work, etc. – things that are more emotional in a sense. The motivation behind buying a commercial property stems from which investment opportunity gives the biggest return with the least amount of risk – it is about cash flow, appreciation, and opportunity costs…a much more cerebral decision. That thought process resonates with me and allows me the opportunity to help clients make the very best business decision for their individual set of circumstances. In addition, with commercial real estate, you have an added way to help clients, and that is with leasing properties, which isn’t normally a part of the residential real estate market.
3. I’m not a big fan of playing the “chick” card. I think for every challenge we face as a woman in a male-dominated industry we also have an advantage and neither is insurmountable nor career making. As an example, I think gaining intellectual credibility takes longer for a woman because some clients (and a few brokers) struggle with the idea that a woman is capable of making the necessary financial analysis to put together a lease or sell a property. But it only takes a couple well put together deals and your reputation goes from being “the new chick broker” to being “a broker who can get a deal put together.”
One of the advantages that I think I have as a woman is my ability to think creatively within the scope of a financial analysis which means that yes, I definitely approach my deals a little differently. I think it is more common for men to get bogged down by the need to be analytical – perhaps unemotional. But economic times like this call for creative ideas in regards to financing, exchanging, and development of investments – females’ brains tend to be more agile at recognizing the possibilities outside the ordinary – it is part of our well-developed ability to “multi-task.” That’s not to say it is necessarily better but by virtue of being a woman (and perhaps because I am a mother as well) I think about things differently, I ask questions differently, I respond differently and I interpret differently. The advantage is that I am more comfortable with ideas that are “outside the box.”
4. In general, I think women are really good at guiding others through emotional decisions, and buying a home is very much an emotional decision…is this some place I can see raising my children or retiring, does the home project my personality, do I feel good about the neighborhood. And when you are innately good at something you have a much higher likelihood at being successful, thus I think many women are drawn to residential real estate. That is not to say that women aren’t good at financial analysis…they absolutely are, but I think fewer women see themselves as being analytical or financially proficient and thus choose careers outside this field.
5. Aahhh…the request for the ill-fated prediction! How many pages is this article going to be? For the sake of brevity I will stick to the big picture…commercial real estate in Central Oregon, has not bottomed out. Commercial markets tend to lag the residential markets and there is no sign that this recession is any different. We will face increased short sales in the near term as owners struggle to make payments on vacant or poorly occupied properties. Lease rates for most segments of the market are showing some indication of stabilizing; however vacancy rates are still high, especially in the industrial segment. As employment starts to rebound and companies begin to grow, we will begin to see lease rates move upward once again. As lease rates increase, property values increase and owners will be able to sell. However the elephant in the room is lending, until the banks are able to lend under more normal terms (not to be confused with irresponsible terms) buyers can’t buy, thus sellers can’t sell. So when is it going to “be all better?” Third quarter 2010 shows promise.
6. Know anyone looking for some terrific office space? I have suites available for lease ranging from 300-10,000 square feet in locations from South Redmond to NW Crossing!
TERI WEST – BROKER
STEVE LARSEN PROPERTIES
1. My background is in business, I have a BS degree in business administration/accounting from CSU Sacramento and spent several years in the public and corporate accounting field. Commercial real estate seemed a more appropriate fit for my skill set. In addition, there are many women business owners or women responsible for business decisions, some of them are more comfortable working with a woman.
2. I think commercial real estate can be less emotional than residential. Sometimes it is as simple as someone needing three private offices, reception area and break room – as economically as possible. I have not done much residential so I really can’t answer more than that.
3. I don’t think I approach any deal differently because I am a woman. Some clients need more hand holding than others, regardless of gender. I just try to do the best possible job I can do for each and every client.
4. I’m not sure why are there less women in this field.
5. I wish I had a crystal ball! If I had to speculate, I think the commercial market will slowly recover. There is very little new commercial space being built and until we absorb some of the vacancies, prices will tend to remain low and tenants will continue to negotiate. We still see quite a bit of activity but a lot of it is clients downsizing or moving to take advantage of lower lease rates. All the reasons for people wanting to live in Bend are still here — the mountains, river, and the wonderful community we are so lucky to have.
6. As a single working mother with four school age children, this industry allows some flexibility in working hours. I feel like I am able to still participate in my children’s classroom and attend a fair portion of important school and sporting events, not to mention orthodontist and other appointments.
MHI, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT & ASSET MANAGEMENT
1. The big draw for me has always been development…I’m a sucker for the power and creativity of transformation. My first taste came when I was involved in managing investments for celebrity clients, and one of the investments was an urban renewal re-development project in a blighted area of Southern California. For me, the appeal of development is how it encompasses a certain degree of risk, how it requires solving design and market challenges, juggling lots of moving parts, and by its very nature brings about change. Here in Central Oregon that change has been creativity at its purest: making something out of nothing…turning sagebrush and juniper into a thriving business park, for example. As for commercial versus residential, the economic characteristics of properties held as income-producing assets with long-term value provide an investment vehicle I like and can understand.
2. Working on a residential condo project followed by a high-rise office building gave me the opportunity early on to assess differences between the two product types. By and large, the mechanics are going to be the same but, from a psychological and end-user standpoint, the choice of an office, retail, or industrial location is going to be a business decision, while people’s homes are personal and typically more emotional. Also, the physical real estate need of a business will be only one piece of operating a business; and for me, that bigger picture criteria makes it more interesting and aligns better with my own temperament and skill set.
3. An added pull for me has always been the economic development aspect of commercial/ industrial development…what I call the creation of wealth…where a company’s success and new ideas enable jobs and individual achievement, and where the community benefits in countless ways…it’s this that has given a lot of meaning and higher purpose to my work. Others (not just men) may be more transaction-oriented while I tend to approach deals from multiple angles, such as, how a particular use will enhance what’s already here…or perhaps be a game changer…or what’s unique about a given location that will make the employer’s life easier in attract-
4. I suspect things like numbers, or the idea of working in a field where strategy, politics, negotiations are perceived more as male traits have led to fewer women choosing commercial development; and personally, I had to learn some of that. But it seems to me more about being able to articulate a vision, being someone who’s a die-hard at follow-thru and communications and not afraid to lead, plus being/ holding others accountable…those are keys to success at least in the development arena, and women can certainly excel in those qualities.
5. As housing stabilizes and financing improves, I would expect to see more certainty and spending on the part of manufacturers, service providers, retailers and consumers, thus improving the leasing and sales market. Central Oregon is still a desirable place to live, and as long as community leaders recognize economic development as a priority, the region’s commercial real estate sector will be fine.